Parental Pre‐ and Postpartum Mental Health Predicts Child Mental Health and Development

AuthorMaija Tulppala,Raija‐Leena Punamäki,Marjo Flykt,Aila Tiitinen,Leila Unkila‐Kallio,Asko Tolvanen,Jallu Lindblom,Mervi Vänskä
Published date01 July 2017
Date01 July 2017
M V, R-L P, J L,  M F
University of Tampere
A T University of Jyväskylä
L U-K Helsinki University Central Hospital and University of Helsinki
M T University of Helsinki
A T Helsinki University Central Hospital and University of Helsinki
Parental Pre- and Postpartum Mental Health Predicts
Child Mental Health and Development
Objective: To identify interplay of early mater-
nal and paternal mental health symptoms for
predicting child mental health and development.
Background: Research on family mental health
has largely excluded fathers, although the
well-being of both parents is likely to be impor-
tant for child development. In this study, we
analyzed (a) intrafamilial dynamics between
mothers’ and fathers’ early mental health symp-
toms and (b) the importance of separate (mother
and father) and joint (additive, hierarchical,
and buffering) theoretical models of parental
mental health for predicting child mental health
and development.
Method: Finnish mothers and fathers (N=
763), half of whom conceived through assisted
reproductive treatments (ART), reported their
symptoms of psychological distress and depres-
sion from the pregnancy to 2months and
12 months postpartum. Later, when the child
was 7–8 years of age, parents (N=485) reported
Faculty of Social Sciences, 33014 University of Tampere,
Finland (mervi.vanska@uta.).
Key Words: Child development, child mental health, mater-
nal depression, parentalmental health, paternal depression,
pre- and postpartum period.
the child’s internalizing and externalizing symp-
toms and social and cognitive developmental
Results: We identied both co-occurrence and
compensation in intrafamilial early parental
mental health. Further, mothers’ symptoms
alone (separate mother model) predicted child
internalizing symptoms, whereas joint parental
symptoms (additive model) predicted problems
in executive function.
Conclusion: The pre- and postnatal mental
health of mothers and fathers is important for
later child development.
Implications: To support healthy childdevelop-
ment, both parents need to be screened for early
mental health problems, and psychological help
should be offered to families across the pre- and
postpartum period.
For decades, the family systems perspective has
emphasized that families function as organized,
holistic systems. Nevertheless, the vast majority
of research on family mental health continues to
focus on individual family members. Maternal
and paternal mental health is often studied sepa-
rately, although each is known to inuence the
other (Goodman, 2008; Paulson & Bazemore,
Family Relations 66 (July 2017): 497–511 497

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